Monday, 1 December 2008

More tips on selecting a tripod and head

Further on my two previous posts on choosing a tripod, How to Save Money When Buying a Tripod and More on Tripods here are a few more suggestions on models currently and easily available in Australia. Personally I love my Gitzo 3540XLS and the BH-55 head but not everyone has over a grand to spend on a camera support. Fortunately you can achieve similar results with half the cash. Remembering that the important things to look for in a tripod and head setup are that it extends to head height and gets close to the cround for macro work. And that it is easy to use and light enough that you will take it with you. So here are a few suggestions...


  • Manftotto 055. There are Five different versions of the same set of legs differing in materials used for construction and centre column set up. Have a look at the 055XB (Aluminium) or 055MF4 (Mag Fibre).
  • The MT 8271 from Giotto is a remarkable carbon fibre tripod offering simliar features to the Gitzo in a not quite as nicely finished package. It is amazingly cheep but I don't know how well they will last 3 or 4 years down the line like the Manfrotto and Gitzo counterparts.
  • My favourite is the BH-55 from Really Right Stuff but if you aren't looking to support four kilograms of camera and glass the little brother the BH-40 is a great alternative.
  • Manfrotto offer a couple of alternatives. The Hydrostatic range is superb and will support anything you care to throw at it. You can chose an arca-swiss compatable plate for it or purchase a Wimberly or RRS plate to use if you wish to use acra swiss plates (and you should)
  • The MIDI ballhead range (Not to be confused with the MINI, which is no good for our applications) is a good cheaper lighter alternative to the Hydrostatic heads. I don't like the camera attachment plates on this range and they cannot be changed to an Arca-Swiss plate but it is a good alternative especially if you don't have and never plan on getting any lenses with tripod mounts. If you do or ever will get lenses with tripod mounts then you should consider getting an Arca-Swiss compatable head.
Hope this helps a bit



Anonymous said...

Hi Craig, just one thing, I know that you said that there are 5 differant versions of the Manfrotto tripod legs (I have the Manfrotto 055 BWB) but one of my problems with these legs is the fact that the centre post leg will not let me get down far enough for macro work close to the ground. The centre post is approx 18 inches long, so that is the limit I can get to the ground. Is there something I am doing wrong ?. As far as I can see there are two ways to work around the problem, both a bit drastic. One is to cut the centre post down to 16 inch, leaving me a little bit of adjustment, the other is to dig an 16 inch hole in the ground for the post to go down (not very practical I know). Other than that, and it being on the heavy side, i am quite happy with it.

Craig said...

This is one of the problems with the Manfrottos, the centre column is very long. There are a couple of models that allow the column to flip into a horizontal configuration. This allow the legs to lie flat but isn't the most stable situation, which is after all what we are trying to do with a tripod. The other option it to just chop the centre column. You are never going to use the full length of it as they are really long. Remove the rubber stopper from the end, take the whole thing out of the tripod and get to work with a hacksaw. Smooth of the edges with a file and then put it all back together. One last option is to remove it all together. This is what I did with my old 005 tripod. You can remove the head from the centre column and take it down to the local hardware store and find a bolt/washer configuration that allows you to bolt the head directly to the legs. this increases stability, saves weight and most importantly lets you get your legs out at 90 degrees.

Tony Pearce said...

Craig, I am thinking of getting a RRS L-plate for my D300. I am also thinking of getting a new tripod - possibly the Manfrotto 055XPROB with the 488 Midi ball head. You suggest that the Midi heads cannot accept Arca style quick release plates but the RRS web site states that at least 2 of their QR plates are suitable for the 488 ball head. Am I missing something?

cheers, Tony

p.s looking forward to the workshop

Craig said...

Hi Tony, I would trust the guys at RRS before I trusted myself on Tripods. They really know their stuff. As Far as I am a aware though the 488 cannot be purchased with an Arca Swiss compatible plate. Can you send through the link so I can have a look? You can purchase an after market clamp from RRS or Wimberley to put on a 488 to make it A/S compatible.


Tony Pearce said...

here is the link to the RSS clamp selection chart if anyone else needs it

Craig said...

It is as I thought, the link refers to what RSS clamps you can put on different manufacturers ball heads. There are a few Manfrotto heads that you can purchase without a clamp for the purpose of putting a different clamp on. This is another option if you want to use Arca Swiss compatible plates.

Tony Pearce said...

Having followed your advice I now have the Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod and 488 head teamed with the RSS clamp and L-plates for my Nikon and Pentax cameras. It all fits together in rock solid fashion and both cameras sit at eye level without extending the centre column. Can't wait for the workshop...